Believe the hype.
The atmosphere. The crowds. The organisation. The landmarks.
The London Marathon is everything I’d imagined it would be…and more!
7 years I’ve applied through the general ballot. 7 years of rejection. 7 years of watching it live on the tv, soaking up the atmosphere from the comfort of my sofa. 7 years of watching the most incredible athletes – from the elites to the club runners – to the first-timers and charity runners.
All inspirational in their own way.
But this was my year.
I’d finally made the start line.
I’d planned well in advance. The hotel – booked. Logistics – sorted. Childcare – organised. Support crew (the wife) – on board.
The only thing I didn’t plan for was the date.
The TCS London Marathon was held on the 2nd October – two weeks after Robin Hood 100. Not ideal of course but it was London. There was no way I was going to miss out on this opportunity. I knew my target time would have to change – my expectations would have to be lowered. Two weeks is not enough time for my legs to recover from most races – especially a 100 miler! It wasn’t a problem. 7 years in the making – my new target was to simply cross the finish line – however long that took. No pressure. Run to feel. Soak up the atmosphere, take some pictures and enjoy every mile. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and an unforgettable experience. A chance to tick something off the bucket list.
I’d travelled down to London with Ruth on Saturday morning, leaving the kids with my sister-in-law in Milton Keynes. With the pending rail strikes, we’d made the decision to drive and headed straight for the Travelodge in Wimbledon Morden, left the car in the carpark before heading straight to the expo.
The expo was everything I’d imagined it would be – a glorified marketing opportunity. Not necessarily a bad thing – and it does a good job of building up excitement levels – but once I’d collected my race number and weaved my way around the endless merch stands, we headed for the exit and explored what London has to offer – all whilst childfree – such a treat.
25,000 steps later, we found ourselves heading back to the hotel, exhausted – but fulfilled after a fantastic day in London and ready for a good nights sleep.
The alarm was set for 6.30am. It was a 90 minute journey across London to the start line at Blackheath in Greenwich – which was extremely well organised. The adrenaline levels were definitely kicking in and you could sense the nervous energy in the air – as tens of thousands of people made their way across London.
I’d been allocated the blue start area: wave 7 – which I’d assumed was based on your expected finish times you’d provided when signing up. Again, it was extremely well organised, with only runners allowed in the start area which reduced the amount of traffic and queue times (portaloo queues were still incredibly long however – but I’ve yet to run an event that isn’t). Once called into your wave – like cattle to a pen – you’re marched to the start line before you eventually step foot under the gantry.
I was running the London Marathon.
It was a surreal moment and I almost had to pinch myself to remind me that I wasn’t dreaming. The start was incredibly busy but within a few hundred metres the crowd had filtered out and you could settle into a rhythm.
I’d agreed to see Ruth at Westferry – which was an ideal location for spectators as runners went past at miles 14 and 20 – but to my surprise she had waited around at the start line and I got to see her within the first half mile which was lovely.
I’d settled into a nice rhythm for the first 5k as you wind your way around the streets of Woolwich. I remember thinking how well supported the route was – even this early into the race. At the 5k mark, the blue waves merged with the red and green waves and the route becomes extremely busy with runners, all of whom are sticking to their own race plan. I found myself overtaking a lot as I was running to feel – whilst maintaining 9 minute mile pace, which wasn’t a problem at the time but in hindsight I’d have been better off going with the flow rather than weaving in and out of runners so early on to conserve energy.
The route then takes you past the Cutty Sark in Greenwich before heading towards Surrey Quays. The crowds grew bigger and noisier and the support was absolutely fantastic. One mistake I did make – and for anyone who’s lucky enough to run London in the future please take note – is that I didn’t have my name printed on my running vest or race number. Getting shout-outs of encouragement from the crowd is so uplifting – especially in the latter end of the race – and something I regretted almost immediately. The support is brilliant, the noise, the cheers – it’s all fantastic – but having it directed at you personally is on another level. I missed that.
At mile 12 we ran across Tower Bridge which was simply amazing and exceeded all my expectations. From watching previous London Marathons, running under the iconic towers was always my highlight – the section that I was looking forward to the most. It never failed to deliver. From the amazing support to the deafening cheer – to actually experience it in person was truly mind blowing.
Once you leave Tower Bridge you follow the A1203 towards Canary Wharf. I eased off the pace slightly whilst looking out for Ruth amongst the crowd – now 3 to 4 rows deep lining the streets. I knew she’s be around the 14 mile mark – and given the amazing reception we received from everyone out to support, I knew it would pretty hard to hear her in all the melee and excitement. My best bet would be for me to spot her rather than the other way round.
Just before mile 14 I heard my name being shouted from behind and managed a quick glance round to see Liz – a friend from my running club – amongst the crowd. It was the first time I’d heard my name being called out and it gave me an instant lift.
At mile 15 I saw Ruth in the distance. The timing couldn’t have worked out better. My legs were starting to feel heavy by this stage so I took the opportunity to take a few minutes out, grab some super fuel (Percy Pigs) and regroup. It was the first thing I’d had anything to eat all race – which given my meticulous planning was a fundamental mistake. I don’t do gels – they make me feel nauseous – and given I wasn’t carrying a race pack – I had no Tailwind on me – and I didn’t plan anything else. The course had plenty of water and electrolytes on offer – but nothing to replace the calories. I’ve run marathons before with no fuel – but it was a warm day and I was already running on tired legs.
I left Ruth feeling revigorated. The next couple of miles looped around Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs before you head back to the A1203 toward Westminter. I maintained a steady pace, my heartrate was in the low 140’s – which is manageable for a long ultra – but my legs were in pieces! Each step was becoming increasingly harder at my current pace and it felt like I was running through treacle. Breathing wise, I felt fine – it was just my legs that were heavy. It’s true that the crowds pull you along – the support is fantastic – and not just in small sections – throughout the whole course. It’s littered with spectators – all doing their best to shout words of encouragement and get you to the finish.
The crowd got me through to mile 19 when I saw Ruth again – this time with Jill and Clive who’d come down to offer their support. I was still feeling ok at this stage – with the exception of my legs – but it was nice to stop again, take a couple of minutes out and regroup. My finishing time wasn’t important so I had no urge to run straight past after they’d made the effort to support me throughout the race.
Upon leaving them, I knew it would be the last time I saw them before the finish.
This was the last leg.
The following six miles are a bit of a blur. I remember slowing the pace significantly. I knew I didn’t want to walk – but I also knew that I could maintain a ‘slower’ pace with relatively low effort (my ultra shuffle) so I adopted this technique whilst those around me were starting to walk.
I was making progress – albeit slow progress.
It felt like an eternity but once I’d ticked off the London Eye – 1 mile to go – Big Ben – half a mile to go – Buckingham Palace – 400 meters to go…
I knew I’d done it.
Running down the Mall – with the finish gantry in sight – was just an incredible feeling. Words really can’t describe it.
Crossing the finish line I was overcome with all kinds of emotions. There were runners around me collapsing to their knees – some in floods of tears. It was an incredibly proud and uplifting moment.
I collected my medal and race t-shirt and started walking aimlessly down the Mall – before my legs completely gave up on me and I found myself lying on the floor – propped up against a tree. I’d given everything. I’d completed the London Marathon. I’d completed the London marathon two weeks after completed a 100 mile run. I was physically exhausted.
I took ten minutes before I eventually pulled myself to my feet and met up with Ruth, Jill and Clive – who were waiting for me in the greeting area.
I felt nauseous for about 30 minutes after the race – and was sick in Trafalgar Square (sorry!) before I eventually started to feel better.
I finished in 4:20 – some 40+ minutes off my PB but the time really wasn’t important.
I’d completed the London Marathon – the greatest Marathon in the World!
2 thoughts on “TCS London Marathon 2022”
Great job. It’s a very special race. I did it in 1998 and 1999 – and about 20 rejections later I still remember it clearly. Thanks for bringing it all back.
Loved your report and glad I could give you that boost even though I nearly missed you (I had my eagle-eyed, and taller than me, best friend with me, who’s got good at spotting Lions over the years!).